I’m breaking pattern this week so I can share something I wrote for Father’s Day, a sermon based on Psalm 1:1-2. It’s challenging and practical, and I hope will help you next time you have the “I’m worried about the path you’re going down” talk with someone.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Happy Father’s Day! This morning I’m going to give you a tool to use as dad’s (and mom’s, and anyone else too, it’s pretty universal), and a challenge for you to look at in your own life. It’s a tool because after I’m done here you should be able to replicate this little drawing I’ll show you on a napkin while having dinner with your kid, or even an employee, or someone you are mentoring. It’s a challenge because I also want you to think about these concepts for yourselves. This morning we are going to talk about Success.
There seems to be an insatiable desire among people to be seen as, and feel, “successful”, no matter what the cost. And I think the reason is because in a lot of people’s minds, “success” equals happiness… or at least it’s supposed to. We sacrifice a lot of things to achieve this thing called “success”. We work hard at school, sacrificing our time, our friends, and sometimes even our health to be top of our class. Then we get into the working world, and we do the same … whatever that looks like in our field of work.
Is that ok? I think that the desire to be successful, and happy, productive and pleased with our work, is a God given desire, and therefore is holy and good. I believe that God made man for happiness – it was His intention to create beings that would be happy, productive and thriving– to have an abundant life. So it’s a good thing. And on the other hand, nobody wants to be unhappy, a failure or miserable. There are some who do things that, in the end, will make them miserable or set themselves up for failure, but no one starts out their life wanting to live that way.
But there’s a problem with our pursuit of happiness and success – or at least the way many people try to achieve it. One famous theologian (Adam Clarke) states the problem this way,
“So perverted is the human heart, that it seeks happiness where it cannot be found; and in things which are naturally and morally unfit to communicate it.”
In other words, we have this burning desire to attain a life of achievement, accomplishment, happiness and contentment, but we are so clouded by sin and selfish ambition that we end up going all sorts of wrong places to find it. And that hurts the individual, and their relationships with those around them, and their relationship with God. So this morning, I want to talk a little bit about what success really looks like, and to show an important step we must take to attain it.
I started out this morning reading Psalm 1 because I believe it gives us a picture of a successful person… what he looks like, and what he doesn’t. Take a look at the beginning of this verse. The first word in the book of Psalms, the song-book of the bible, is the word “Blessed”. It’s the Hebrew word ESCHER and it’s the word for “Happy”. In Latin it’s translated BEATUS which is where we get the word “beatitude”, which is used in the New Testament when Jesus begins longest set of teachings, His Sermon on the Mount, with a list of “Beatitudes”… “Blessed are the peacemakers…”… or “Happy are peacemakers…” He starts His longest sermon with a picture of what a blessed, happy life looks like.
And that’s what we’re shooting for in life isn’t it? Happiness. It’s what we’re searching for. It’s what we want to provide for ourselves, our children, and those we love. But what does it look like, and where can we get it?
I think it’s highly appropriate to talk about this subject on Father’s Day, because Dad’s (and of course mom’s too!) need to get this right. A lot of dad’s mess this part up, and end up having a lot of regrets in the middle or at the end of their life when they realize that what they had worked so hard to achieve, or spent a lot of time pursuing things that weren’t going to make them truly successful. And I don’t want that for any of you.
So, how does one define success? Is it something that we get to choose ourselves and direct our life towards, or is there a definition that is common to everyone, that is a quintessential measurement of human success?
People define success in many ways. Some measure it in wealth. If you have the most money and stuff, or enough money and stuff to live comfortably, or at least more money and stuff than someone else… then you are doing well – you are a success. Some measure it in health. If you can live the longest, or can run the farthest, lift the most, or hit it harder than anyone else, then you are the best – a success.
Some measure it in popularity. It doesn’t matter how much money you made, or even if you are the best. If you are known by more people, then you are successful. There are people today who are famous for being famous, and that is their end goal. They make nothing important, say nothing important, and contribute very little to society, but they are famous and therefore feel successful. TV shows and magazines follow them around like mosquitoes, and lots of people will do anything to become famous like them – because that’s success.
I heard a little girl on the radio last week when they were doing a radiothon for CHEO. This little girl, who had gone through so much in her life, surrounded by amazing doctors, nurses, specialists… The host asked what she wanted to be when she grew up? Her answer, “I want to be famous.” That is a very telling statement about what we are teaching our youth about how to define success in their life.
Some define success by their peer group. Wealth and fame doesn’t matter, as long as they are acknowledged to be part of a certain group. They work their whole live to get that title. CEO, Elite Status Member, VIP, MVP, Gold Medal Holder, World Record Holder. There are people who have actually died trying just to get into the Guinness book of World Records. One woman died trying to break the world’s Free Diving record… she went 561 feet under water and didn’t come back alive. Many have died trying to set speed records on land, sea and in the air. I read that a man from London essentially killed himself because he wanted to set the world record for spinning in circles. He fell down, cracked his head, and died. He wanted to be identified with that group called “World record holders” so bad, it cost him his life.
So, how do you define success? When you look at what you are putting your effort, energy, time, money, strength, attention, life and heart into… what are you trying to achieve? Happiness, right? Why do it if it won’t make you happy? Well, my hope today, dads, moms, and everyone else here too, is that what you are pouring your life into is actually something worth achieving, and will really bring you true, lasting happiness. And hopefully this is something you can share with others, and can be doing in a way that worships God. It’s based on Psalm 1:1-2.
Let’s read verse 1 again, and today I’m using the English Standard Version, but it’s really close to the NIV. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…”. “Blessed is the man…” “Happy is the man…” “Successful is the man…”. He’s showing us a picture here and uses a pretty neat poetic structure to do it. So here’s your picture.
Bill Cosby once said, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”
In other words, the people you are in relationship with, and who influence your life the most, will inevitably dictate its direction. That’s what it says here too. When you think of a person, or when people think of you, who do they associate you with? When people think of you, and summarize who you are at the core… they think… what?
Let me show you the poetic structure and how the psalmist paints the picture of this man’s life. There’s a pretty neat set of three progressions here. The first is: Walking, then Standing, then Sitting. And this is all about commitment to certain relationships. It’s a picture of how this guy got to be who he is today.
Picture yourself at a party, and it’s easier to understand this. First you come into the party and you’re walking around. You’ve still got your jacket on, you’re schmoozing and getting drinks and going to the snack table… you’re not committed to staying, but you’re there. At least when you’re walking you have some kind of momentum and could turn around and walk out the door, change who you’re talking to, and do something different.
But at some point you stop… now you’re standing. You’ve found a group to chat with that seems to have something in common, or is someone you want to get to know. Now you’re not moving and have decided to stick around. Conversations are had, jokes told, stories shared, advice given… but you’re still standing. It’s awkward to hold your snack plate, you can’t really have freedom to gesture or you’ll spill something. You are more committed to this relationship than when you were walking, but you’re not fully comfortable, and could still excuse yourself.
But then comes sitting. Now you’re not just attending the party, you plan on sticking around for a while. You’ve gotten to know some people, moved to the couch, taken off your shoes and your jacket, you’re comfortable there, and you are beginning an intimate conversation with someone and it will take a good effort to get up, gather your things and go somewhere else. This is you at their kitchen table, or in the living room on their couch—this is friendship.
This is the progression of how we build relationships. Walking, Standing, Sitting. The Psalmist here is saying, “Be careful who you associate with. Where you walk, who you stand with, and who you get comfortable around. Your happiness and success will be built on your associations with the people you end up sitting with at this party called ‘life’.”
Now look at the next progression – Counsel-Way-Seat. First is “counsel”. When someone is counselling you, they are talking to you. This is a picture of who influences this man. This is the building of influence. First, it’s talk. It’s advice. Take it or leave it, but the voices are there. This is the lowest level of influence… the voices around us. Those who we hear as we walk around this life. Some are louder, but we are not committed to listening to them.
Next comes “the way”. This is a beautiful word, DEREK, that means journey, path, or direction. In other words, you’ve now moved from this person or group’s voice being just advice that is floating around your ears, and have appropriated their words as ones which guide your way of life… you are now on the same path as them, going the same direction. Your journey and destination is the same as theirs. You go their way. You’ve moved from them being an outside group, to them being people who actually have enough influence to sway the direction of your life. These are your friends and partners.
And finally comes “the seat”. This word MOWSHAB means dwellings, or house, or land or a place to sit. In other words, now you’re living with these folks. You sit and eat at their table and they are like family. They have the highest level of influence in your life.
God’s word here in Psalm 1 seems to be saying that everybody will go through this process. This is non-optional in life. We are going to be walking, standing and sitting with someone, or many someones. And we are going to be influenced by these people, and we will give some of them greater influence over us than others. The caution, and the secret to success and happiness shown here, is being careful when choosing who these people are, and knowing where and what they are leading us towards.
So who are these people? This is the third progression – building associations. This is a picture of who this person IS NOT associating with. Blessed is the person who IS NOT associating with these people. The Wicked, Sinners, and Scoffers.
“The wicked” is a term used for unrighteous people. Now scripture says that we are all sinners, we are all unrighteous, and need God’s grace to be saved. But this word is not talking about our general condition of being sinners, it is speaking of people who are committed stirring up trouble. The word picture is of a person who is like the water of a troubled and turbulent sea, constantly churning up dirt and muck from the bottom, never stopping to let anyone see clearly. They stir themselves up, and they stir up others, and cloud people with sinful chatter.
These are people who are good talkers, and love to counsel people. They are great whisperers, and backstabbers, and trouble makers. They might not be folks who necessarily commit crimes that people see… and are usually so smooth that people can’t really pin down what they’ve done wrong… but they are the ones who use their words to tear people down, set people up for failure, and lead others astray. We all know these kinds of folks, “the wicked”, and have been hurt by them, right?
Next in the progression comes “sinners”. Now again, we are all sinners, and if we were to try to avoid ever being around sinners, we’d not only be lonely, but we couldn’t even be around ourselves. But this word is an emphatic one. These people are right out in the open with their sin, even bold and daring about the bad things they are doing. They don’t even really try to hide it. They post pictures on Facebook and videos on Youtube of them doing these sinful things! They brag about it! The “wicked” are a bunch of talkers… these people called “sinners” are doers. These are the folks who will even announce their sin before they do it. “We’re going out to get drunk, start a fight, and probably end up in jail, so get out of my way.” Or “I’ve figured out a whole bunch of loopholes in my taxes so I can get a bunch of money that I don’t really deserve… and I’ll show you how!” or “I think pornography and fornication is good, I want to do it, and I think you should join me.” “I want you to come over to my house and let’s gossip and slander the people we know.”
These people are ok with their sin, and boldly proclaim it. But then comes the next part of the progression where one moves from listening to bad things, to doing bad things, to actually working against God and those who follow Him. This is the third group – “the scoffers”. Proverbs 21:24 defines what the word “scoffer” means: ““Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.” This is the person who actually derides, mocks, and openly ridicules God and what God wants. The “wicked” talk about sinful things… the “sinners” do sinful things… “scoffers” do both of those, and go further to even despise and make fun of the most sacred precepts of religion, piety and morals. They even invent ways to ridicule God and His people. They put themselves purposely above God, saying He doesn’t exist, that He is foolish, and what He says doesn’t matter… but what they say does matter.
You give them your ear, and then you follow their path, and then you live with them, and you naturally begin doing what they do.
This is the third place of the progression. Sounds harsh doesn’t it? But it’s true when you think about it. You give them your ear, and then you follow their path, and then you live with them, and you naturally begin doing what they do. You begin by talking about sin… gossiping, backbiting, verbally abusing, sexual talk, joking about cheating, wishing out loud you had someone else’s stuff, even discussing the what-ifs of certain sinful behaviours… and that eventually leads to the action of sinning. And just like when you stand in a place with a foul smell long enough that you get used to it, you will get used to that kind of thinking and behaviour, and begin to see things from the perspective of those people. It becomes normal. Slander, cheating, fighting, swearing, cutting corners, taking things that don’t belong to you, stretching and breaking the laws… that becomes normal. “That’s just the business world!” we say. “That’s how it is at work!” “That’s what has to be done if you’re going to survive in this world!” “Everybody does it!” “All your friends are doing it.” “It’s a natural part of life.” “It’s biological.” “It’s normal.”
But it goes further. When sin becomes normal, it also becomes our god. We take the True God out of our life and replace him with something else – a god that tells us what we want, and lets us do whatever we want. And as that becomes normal, it’s easier to mock God, His priorities, and His people. Purity is seen as prudishness. Pursuing a holy life is considered to be like living in a prison, restricted in movement, and unpleasant to consider. Worshipping and reading God’s word is considered a waste of time, or even wrong.
Have you ever heard this:
“Churches are just breeding grounds for hypocrites and fakers. If God really loved this world it wouldn’t look like it does… He must be a horrible God. Christians have a blind faith is anti-intellectual and is only for stupid people who get fooled into it. We’ve all moved so far past that old way of thinking. We are in a new age, a new time, and they are still stuck in the Dark Ages. All they want to do is control people, condemn people and take their money. Christianity is for the weak and the dim-witted.”
Easy to see, isn’t it? We’ve all heard it. And this picture in Psalm 1:1 is the progression of how we get there. Some of us came from there and have lived it, others of us still visit there from time to time… and still others are there right now. You may hear this kind of thing regularly, and that’s why you hesitate to tell people you are Christian, or that you go to church.
This is the picture I want you to see and that I want you to be able to draw for your friends, your mentoree’s, and your kids when you have that talk about “the path I see you going down right now”. You know that talk… when you see someone listening to dangerous voices, doing wrong things, and heading towards some serious problems in their life. This is what you can draw for them.
You can say, “Listen! Success isn’t defined by what you have, what you do, who you know, or who knows you… it’s defined by who you are. Who you are when no one’s around except you and God. Who you are in your thought life, your will, your priorities and your desires. Your character. Your integrity.” That’s success!
Verse 2 shows us who this man does associate with, and who he really is. He IS NOT with the wicked, the sinful or scoffers, “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Some of us hear that and tense up. Oh great… meditating day and night… reading the bible all day and living on some mountaintop somewhere, eating stewed potatoes and contemplating the complexities of the Book of Job all day long. That’s not what this means.
In easier to understand language it says — a happy and successful person delights (or enjoys and finds benefit in) what God says in the Bible, and throughout his day, from morning to evening, He makes God’s voice the greatest influence in His life. When he’s at work, at the gym, out hunting, doing his taxes, playing with his kids, changing the oil in the car, making dinner, cleaning the house, talking to a neighbour or dealing with a problem, He’s allowing God to have the first say in how he reacts and what he does. Jesus gets first dibs. He listens to Jesus’ counsel, walks in Jesus’ way, and sits at Jesus’ table.
That’s what a successful life looks like. When those who are closest to you and know you best (spouse, children, friends) respect you, know you love God, delight in His word, that you love them with all your heart, forgive them of their wrongs, help them to become better people – because that’s what Jesus does for you — then you are a success.
So, to close, I ask you this question: When people think of you, who would they say your number one relationship is with, who your greatest influence is, and who you associate with? Ask your spouse, your friend, or even your kids, to do some association with you.
Do you ever play word association games? I say a word, and you say the first thing that pops into your head.
I say “BLACK”, you say…
I say “CAR”, you say…
I say “FOREST”, you say…
I say “REMOTE” you say…
Now… I say [Your Name], you say…
What is your association? Do this with a friend. Say your name… “When you hear my name, what is the first word that springs to mind?”
When your kids hear “I’m home”! “Dad’s home!”, or “Mom’s Home!” or “Grandpa’s Here!” do they associate that with the thought “Yay! I have to get to the door and get a hug!” Or is it “I have to hide until I find out what mood they’re in before I go anywhere.” What about your wife (or your husband, ladies). What word do they pick? “Angry”, “Grumpy”, “Caring”, “Generous”, “Cheap”, “Funny”, “Serious”, “Confusing”, “Unavailable”, “Dark”, “Dirty”, “Hard-Worker”, “Godly”.
Is that word a characteristic of the people from verse 1, or the man in verse 2?
So far so good this week, so let’s continue our experiment and see if we can connect Coffee and Outreach.
Outreach, in its most basic form, is simply sharing the love we have experienced through Jesus Christ with others through our words and deeds. We are grace, therefore we are gracious. We have been forgiven, therefore we forgive. We are to God, so we are peacemakers. Our Father gives us good gifts and we share them. We have been given the message of the Gospel, the only way by which we are saved from the consequences of our sin, and so we share that story with others.
Touching People’s Hearts With Coffee
I believe it is possible to use all of God’s good gifts (James 1:17) to share His love with others — and that includes Coffee. Here’s a great video from The Skit Guys connecting coffee and love:
Now was it the coffee that touched this father’s heart? No, it was the love of his children. In the same way, we can use something as simple as a cup of coffee to show people that we love them, will listen to them, acknowledge their hurts, and want to be used by God to bring them peace (even if only for the time it takes to drink a coffee).
1. Take a depressed friend out for coffee. Part of the struggle of depression is that it drives people into isolation. Depressed people begin to believe that no one cares about them, and then reinforce this belief by avoiding contact with people. They wait for someone to call, and when no one does, their perception is confirmed. Be active and call them, take them outside their environment, encourage them to sit on the patio in the sun (or even the rain!) and let them know in no uncertain terms that you love them, God loves them, and both of you will continue to care for them.
2. Use your Coffee With Your Father time (see Coffee & Worship) to specifically focus on praying for people’s salvation.
3. Here’s a way to use your next coffee time to present the gospel! Here’s a great video from Billy Kangas connecting Coffee to the Gospel of Jesus:
Coffee and Fellowship… Fellowship and Coffee… they go together like coffee and cream. Cream and sugar. Coffee and cookies. Chocolate and coffee. Coffee and cake. Cake and ice cream. Ice cream and chocolate sauce. Mmmm… coffee flavoured ice cream… Ooops, sorry! Got carried away.
Some Surprising Similarities
I’m sure you agree fellowship (aka people getting to know one another, supporting one another, serving one another..) seems indelibly connected to coffee. It’s treated like the glue that binds the fellowship together. But did you know there are other similarities?
1. Both seem simple at first, but are far more complex than we realize. Check this out these suggestions: 70g/Litre, course ground trimodal particle distribution, no covering to allow the grinds to bloom so you don’t get an uneven extraction from the cake of coffee. Wow!
Similarly, one would think that sticking people in a room with readily available hot beverages would create Fellowship. Not so, but this is the approach of most of the churches I’ve been to take. Provide a space, perk some coffee, make juice, pour water, steep tea (for the hippies), add some no-nut cookies and sliced veggies (again, for the hippies), and just watch the fellowship bloom. But it’s not that simple is it?
True fellowship is not just meandering around the same floor space sharing insights about the weather and the local sports teams. True Christian fellowship requires time, risk, sacrifice, determination, leadership, emotional energy, purposeful interaction, mission and the imbuement of the Holy Spirit. People need education on how to move their conversation to a deeper level, they need encouragment to let down their guard because many of them have been hurt, they need a reason to meet together beyond sharing a location (a good cause, a decision to make, an issue to support, etc.), and they need lots of time (15 minutes on Sunday after church isn’t enough).
2. Both are terrible lukewarm. No one, not even Jesus, likes lukewarm drinks (Rev 3:16)! They are best hot, or cold. Lukewarm fellowship is even worse. No one likes a hypocrite, and most people can tell pretty quickly when someone is detached, inauthentic or uninterested, even though they walk up to you with a cheery, “How are you?” It only takes a couple of emotionless, mindless, useless conversations for a person to know that the relationship is fake and that they don’t want to waste their time. I’m sure you’ve felt this.
3. It’s not good when it’s too strong. Some people like strong coffee, but even they say it can be too strong. In the same way, when a fellowship goes from being committed and loving (Acts 2:42-47) to being a clique full of nosey busybodies (James 2:1-13, 1 Tim 5:13), they’ve taken a good, God-given thing, and made it into something bad.
Connecting Coffee to Fellowship
So here’s some ideas:
1. Pretend you’re a barista and serve everyone else first. Be the first one to the coffee pot and the last one to take a sip.
2. Make some coffee gifts. A dollar store mug with some chocolate covered espresso beans and a nice, non-preachy note is cheap and does the trick. Give them to folks you see on the periphery of your daily life (Store clerk, bank teller, newcomer to church, neighbour, mechanic, etc.).
3. Have an International Coffee Tasting night where people bring over their coffee machines and a unique blend of coffee and try them all out! I recommend “Kopi Luwak” or “Weasel Poop Coffee”. (I bought it for my brother for Christmas one year.)
What about you? Have you ever drank a drink that came from the rear end of an animal? What has been your best fellowship experience? What has been your worst?
Let’s keep the brainstorm going and see if we can connect Coffee and Discipleship.
Coffee/Discipleship is Personal
Coffee, like discipleship, is a very personal thing. People like their coffee a certain way, and if it’s not done right… well, as my dad used to say, “It’s like drinking dirty dishwater.” Walk into a Starbucks sometime and listen to how people order their drinks – some of them sound like they are crafting it right down to the molecule.
“I’ll have a Venti, sugar-free vanilla, non fat and soy, 1/2 pump almond, half pump mocha, two pumps sugar-free cinnamon dolce, with whip and caramel drizzle.”
[Here’s a list of “Secret Frappuccinos” if you want to get into the craziness]
Christian disciples can become the same way about their discipleship.
“I’ll have an Utmost for His Highest reading, 3 chapters of the Gospels, 1 Psalm, 4 proverbs, 10 minutes of prayer, 3 minutes of meditation, 1 contemporary church service, a Wednesday night traditional prayer meeting, teach Sunday School twice a month, and may I please have some Chris Tomlin CD’s drizzled on top.”
Can Coffee Help us Become Better Disciples?
I believe it can. Here are some ideas:
1. Try Different Coffees & Methods of Discipleship – Consistency is wonderful and important for building habits, complacency and being dispassionately mechanical in your walk with God is not. Knock yourself off of your rut by experimenting with kinds of coffee and coffee drinks. Expand your horizons! (Here’s 22 ways to brew coffee. Here’s 63 different coffee drinks to try.)
And at the same time, try different Discipleship methods.
- Change your time, place, book, words of your prayer, place you serve.
- Here’s a challenge: Don’t use the words “Lord, be with him” when praying for someone else. And don’t use the word “just” at all.
- Try not singing for a Sunday, and just let the words wash over you.
- Try taking notes (or not taking notes) during the sermon.
- Be the last person to stay on a Sunday morning.
- Ask a friend to meet you for a spiritual conversation.
- Research a theological question that has bugged you and don’t stop until satisfied.
2. Drink Coffee from Missionary Locations – If your church sponsors missionaries, do some research on how their country drinks coffee, buy some and drink it for a while. Learn about that country and the missionary, pray extra for them until the coffee is gone, and then move on to a different missionary.
3. Study Fair Trade – Scripture is clear that we are to take care of our environment (it was our first job) and those around us. If you have your head in the sand about where your morning cup of joe comes from, and are unaware of the implications of globalization, then it’s time to pull it out and take a look around. Here’s 2 places to start: Here. Here.
What about you? What’s your favourite way to drink coffee and practice Discipleship? Can you think of any other ways to connect Coffee and Discipleship? Have you become complacent in your faith journey?
This is the first of some week-long experiments where we take something ordinary and see if we can use it to Worship God, grow as Disciples, encourage Fellowship, and practice Outreach. And the first thing that springs to mind is the writer’s best friend — coffee.
Did you know:
- Coffee was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed his herd acted pretty excited after eating a certain kind of berries.
- Coffee beans aren’t beans at all, but are the seeds inside a kind of cherry.
One of the main focuses of this blog is to grow a passion towards making your relationship with God a part of every moment of your life. That’s why I started “Project: Always & Everything”,“an every growing list of unique, interesting, exciting and challenging ways that we can meet God in our daily lives and practice keeping Him Always involved with Everything we do.”
So in keeping with that idea, I want to brainstorm a bit about coffee and worship.
For some, drinking coffee is an act of worship — not one focused on God, but in fact worshipping the ever-so-delectable-bean itself. Think about it. Worship is to give honour, reverence, regard, homage and sacrifice to someone or something regarded as sacred. Now run your attitude for coffee through that matrix.
- If you don’t have coffee for a few days, how do you feel?
- Do you pursue coffee as a necessary part of your day?
- How much time, effort, energy and money to you sacrifice for coffee?
- How do you celebrate coffee in your life? Do you have a sanctified chalice (special mug)? Do you have any consecrated garments to celebrate your object of worship (any clothes with coffee on them)?
- When you wake up in the morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, filled with longing and desire to roll that first, hot, delicious, sip across your lips and past your long waiting taste buds — is it an act of emotional worship?
- Is coffee the first thought on your mind in the morning, and your source of energy and inspiration throughout the day?
- Is your coffee an idol?
Worship With Coffee
Yes, coffee can become an idol, but can drinking it also be an act of worship? If we approach coffee remembering that God created this world full of amazing things to enjoy but not worshiped (1 Corinthians 6:12-13, 19-20), have our hearts focused on God in thanksgiving and prayer (Ephesians 5:20, 6:18), then I believe we can redeem our coffee time and make it an act of worship. How?
- Make God your first thought in the morning, and then thank Him for creating things we can enjoy, and even use to perk us up for His service – like coffee!
- Do an idol check now and again by not having coffee for a time (a week, a month) to be sure that it is not controlling you, and you are not dependant on it. (Here’s an infographic about caffeine.)
- Thank God for all the people, from harvest to processing to delivery to the store clerk, that worked hard to get that coffee into your hands. You may want to (strongly) consider drinking only fair-trade coffee.
- Have coffee with your Father. Capture the time you take drinking that first cup as a time to simply be with God. Not rushing around, not dumping it into a to-go mug, not even during your bible-study time. Just take that time to talk things over with your Father in Heaven.
What about you? Have you ever worshipped at the altar of the great bean? Can you think of ways you can connect coffee and worship?
Today is Outreach Thursday, and this question comes up a lot, so let’s tackle it first. Should a Christian give money to panhandlers?
This is a complex issue. On the one hand we have the divine compulsion and inward desire to help those who need our assistance (Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 6:27-36), while on the other we worry that our generosity will be misspent on things that are more harmful than good (like drugs or alcohol).
So what should we do? After some reading and talking to experts, I’ve concluded that giving cash to people on the street is not a good way to help them. The best way is to support local programs (InnerCity, Food Bank, etc.) which are designed to serve their needs, and have the expertise to deal with those who seek to abuse the system. I talked to one inner city program leader who said he wishes people would give less money to panhandlers so they would be forced to participate in the programs set up to help them best.
That said, I remember a time when a young, pregnant woman stopped me in the parking lot of the Home Depot and asked me for some money so she could buy a burger at the McDonalds. Did I send her away to find an official program? No, I gave her enough to buy a combo. Did I follow her to make sure she got the burger? No. Do I regret giving her the money? No. Would I do it again? Yes.
I believe that we must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16) in these matters, and that means educating ourselves about local poverty issues, encouraging our churches to support local programs, and praying for wisdom so we don’t fall prey to those who would abuse Christian charity. However, when faced with an ‘extreme situation’ like the young woman at Home Depot, we must trust the Holy Spirit within us and err on the side of generosity.
What do you think? Have you thought about this before? How have you helped panhandlers and homeless people in the past?
I am compelled to write my first “Fellowship Wednesday” post about what I believe is the most poisonous thing to a fellowship of believers — gossip.
As pastor of a former church I spent time in the office meeting with people. One day a man came in for a chat. On the way out afterwords he said, “Oh, I probably shouldn’t tell you this but…”. And I stopped him cold. “Then don’t tell me.”, I said. He persisted, “No really, I shouldn’t tell you this but…”. So I said, “No really… don’t tell me.” and started to walk away. He walked after me. I started running. He started running after me yelling, “I shouldn’t tell you this… but I want to tell you!!!”. I literally ran him out the door trying to avoid gossip!
Gossip is deadly. It destroys trust between people and therefore kills friendships. If left alone it can cripple ministries and destroy good leaders. I hate gossip, and so does God.
I’ve been around the effects of pervasive gossip among believers, and it breaks my heart. Most of us know how much it hurts to be talked about behind our backs, the damage it can do to a community, and how much it grieves God, but so many still get caught up in it. It’s like Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels…” Sometimes we’re in the middle of the conversation, and half swallowed the morsel, before we even realize what we’re doing!
I think part of the reason is that we don’t know what gossip is. Let’s take a look at what scripture says it is:
- Proverbs 11:13 – “A gossip betrays a confidence…” Anytime someone shares something they heard privately, it is gossip.
- Proverbs 16:28 – “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Anyone sharing information to embarrass a person, cause division in a group, or harm a relationship is gossiping.
- Proverbs 26:20 – “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” Anyone sharing a problem that is already being (or has been) dealt with is gossiping.
Romans 1:29 (among other places) says that gossip is evil. A strong fellowship must be free of gossip. If you find yourself around gossip, take a page out of Joseph’s book and just run away from it. Let us all be careful with our words and to bring our concerns to God first, and then to the person we have an issue with. More info here.
What about you? Are you a gossip? Have you been gossiped about? How far have you gone to avoid gossiping?